Hi all,

it's been a weekend of trying out different bridges.

Here's some pictures:

There are a few different materials involved: maple, ebony, bone, yew and limbali.

Somehow I'm drawn to the idea of bridges out of ebony, I don't know why. It's always a bit dissapointing when I make them and try them out. Short summary:

Maple: gives a loud and crisp sound. The sound can be a bit "spread out", not as focused or warm. At least on my banjos.

Ebony: pretty muted sound, surprisingly. Although it sort of brings all the notes, the sound together, gives it a somewhat warm, compressed sound. Sort of like using a compressor when recording. I made the ebony bridges super thin this time and think they need to be really thin to give a good sound. I find that they work well on two of my zither banjos. Specially on my old Windsor from before 1895. It has a somewhat harsh and clanky sound, also at the moment pretty thick strings, and I find that the ebony bridge really levels that out. But it's the only banjo so far where I feel it is an improvment without drawbacks.

Bone with ebony: pretty much the same as pure ebony. Maybe even more muted.

Yew: surprisingly close to maple. Not as crisp and loud but much better than ebony.

Limbali: not much to say about it. Close to the yew bridges but not quite.

So, concluion is; I guess they actually knew what they where talking about back then :-) There's absolutely no need to use anything else than maple, except in speciall cases (like my zither banjo). I find that maple simply sound the best. (to my taste, that is!)

Oh, and that t-shaped bridge is absolutely horrible! It's amazing how the shape can make such a difference. I put it on and played all of five notes on the banjo and then took it of again. Yikes!

This makes me wonder how a maple bridge would sound on a guitar....

I hope all this was at least a bit helpfull to some.

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Thanks, that is very interesting. I guess the old boys did all these tests 100 years ago and came to the same conclusion.

My pick would be the one in the centre of the photo!

Yes, I have read about these conclusions, so there where actually no need to reinvent the wheel, so to say. But now I know for myself and can stop wondering.

Yes, that is my pick as well. I have a few of those. 

No you are not re-inventing the wheel!  We all strive to get that "special" sound out of our banjo and probably all have a box of tried and discarded bridges like you have ;-)    Maple is not always the answer and sometimes, on some banjos, 100% ebony bridges sound better.... but very rarely!

Yes, I totally agree. Like on my old Windsor zither banjo. 

The best sounding bridge for my Abbott Amboyna zither-banjo is made of bamboo. 

Pär Engstrand said:

Yes, I totally agree. Like on my old Windsor zither banjo. 

I always find these "which bridge?" threads both interesting and frustrating. Since testing cannot be anything but subjective, it doesn't really mean anything. What sounds terrible to me may sound perfect to someone else.

I have hearing loss (mostly in my left ear), so I'm a poor judge of even my own experiments. Generally, they have to be radically good or bad for me to make any choice. Otherwise, I simply go with maple and "looks good to me!" Some years ago, I gave away my "Hotspot" bridge which I had been playing on my Stelling BG banjo for ages. Some bridge-maker suggested I could improve the sound and I applied their specialty bridge. A few months later I regretted my choice...eventually finding another "Hotspot" (no longer made, etc.) on ebay.

While I like the Stewart-style two-footed bridge, I much prefer the look of the Cole-type (5-footed). They sound equivalent to me, given that they have a roughly similar mass. The Cole type is structurally stronger and thus I could probably use a softer wood (like pine, etc.) if I wished.

There are lots of cool materials out there to experiment with. If I were to design a test, it would require each bridge to be the same basic design and the same mass. This would require that the design included areas where mass could be added/subtracted (to meet the equivalent mass restriction) without altering the basic form and footprint.

Maybe once my workshop is complete and I run shy of projects... Ha!

You're right. Only one variable at a time will yield meaningful results, or something close to objective results. I think the Hotspot was a great bridge on the particular banjos on which it was great. Bill Evans kept *my* Hotspot bridge on his Cole Eclipse banjo for a year or more because nothing else either of us could find animated that banjo so well. I finally just took it off after a gig as I needed it for another banjo.

Trapdoor2 said:

I always find these "which bridge?" threads both interesting and frustrating. Since testing cannot be anything but subjective, it doesn't really mean anything. What sounds terrible to me may sound perfect to someone else.

I have hearing loss (mostly in my left ear), so I'm a poor judge of even my own experiments. Generally, they have to be radically good or bad for me to make any choice. Otherwise, I simply go with maple and "looks good to me!" Some years ago, I gave away my "Hotspot" bridge which I had been playing on my Stelling BG banjo for ages. Some bridge-maker suggested I could improve the sound and I applied their specialty bridge. A few months later I regretted my choice...eventually finding another "Hotspot" (no longer made, etc.) on ebay.

While I like the Stewart-style two-footed bridge, I much prefer the look of the Cole-type (5-footed). They sound equivalent to me, given that they have a roughly similar mass. The Cole type is structurally stronger and thus I could probably use a softer wood (like pine, etc.) if I wished.

There are lots of cool materials out there to experiment with. If I were to design a test, it would require each bridge to be the same basic design and the same mass. This would require that the design included areas where mass could be added/subtracted (to meet the equivalent mass restriction) without altering the basic form and footprint.

Maybe once my workshop is complete and I run shy of projects... Ha!

You are both right! :-)

An added "problem" is also that no two pieces of wood are perfecly alike. Even if one would make two bridges of the exact same measurments and the exact same mass, they would still be slightly different. It might not be noticable but there would be a difference.

So what are those "hotspot" bridges? I tried to find pictures of them on googel but no result. Apparently they are made of Afromosia wood. Might be interesting... :-)

If you found out what wood they were made from you know more than me. When these were "the thing" in the 1990s the wood was a guarded secret.  They had a red dot on one side. That's the "spot", though it wasn't hotter than the rest of the bridge. They added lower midrange and and tone color to some banjos.

Pär Engstrand said:

You are both right! :-)

An added "problem" is also that no two pieces of wood are perfecly alike. Even if one would make two bridges of the exact same measurments and the exact same mass, they would still be slightly different. It might not be noticable but there would be a difference.

So what are those "hotspot" bridges? I tried to find pictures of them on googel but no result. Apparently they are made of Afromosia wood. Might be interesting... :-)

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